Herman Weinrich makes his home in Burlington, but his labors have had direct effect upon the commercial activity and consequent prosperity of Iowa and other States, for the boundaries of the city have not limited his capabilities. He is a typical representative of the American spirit which, within the past century, has achieved a work that arouses at once the astonishment and admiration of the world. Burlington is fortunate in that he allied his interests with hers, for his labor, and the labor he employs, have contributed so largely to its business development and substantial upbuilding. He is not so abnormally developed as to be called a genius: but is one of the strongest because one of the best-balanced, the most even and self-masterful of men, and he has acted so well his part in both public and private life that Burlington has been enriched by his example, his character, and his labor.
Mr. Weinrich was born in Cassel, Germany, in 1845, a son of Carl Ludwig August Weinrich, who died at the age of sixty-three years, while acting as an officer in the department of the interior in the principality of Hessen. The maternal ancestors of our subject were French Huguenots, who were driven out of France because of their religious belief. They settled in Germany, but adhered to the French church; and Mr. Weinrich, of this review, was taught to speak French, it being retained as the language of his people. During the Revolutionary War in America, certain of the principalities of Germany made contracts with England, whereby their soldiers should fight in the English army, in order to subdue the uprising among the colonists. August Weinrich, grandfather of Herman Weinrich, was among this number, serving with the Hessian soldiers. While on a transport returning to his native country, the vessel was blown by contrary winds into the torrid zone, and there becalmed for many weeks, until the provisions and water gave out. Many died as the result, and Mr. Weinrich lost his eyesight. Finally, however, the ship was blown out to sea, and August Weinrich, with a few others, reached his old home, but he never recovered his sight. In the family of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Ludwig August Weinrich were thirteen children, of whom Herman was the fifth. Five are still living in Germany, while Emma Weinrich is now living in Burlington. The mother died when Herman was but two years old, and the father died when the son had reached the age of thirteen. At the usual age Herman Weinrich began his education. In addition to his native German tongue he early learned to speak French, then the Swedish and Norwegian languages, and later English. In his youth he served an apprenticeship in a dry-goods factory, and for two years he traveled for a firm, selling cassimere’s and broadcloths to merchant tailors and wholesale dealers in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Belgium, traveling in those days altogether by ship or cart. He afterward traveled for a year, selling perfumes for L. T. Pivet, a Paris manufacturer. In 1865 he came to the United States on a side-wheel steamer, the "Bavaria," being eighteen days en route. A brother, Christian Weinrich, had preceded him to Des Moines county, Iowa, and was engaged in farming here, and Herman Weinrich joined his brother, and began shucking corn: but he found his hands too tender for that kind of work. His English pronunciation being poor he started to school, in order that he might perfect his knowledge of the language, and when twenty-two years of age he "stood up and spelled down" with lads of eight or ten years. His perseverance, however, soon enabled him to overcome the disadvantage of unfamiliarity with the language, and to enter business life and make steady progress therein. He conducted a country store for four years at Pleasant Grove, and held the position of postmaster under President Johnson, at a salary of twenty-four dollars per year. There were three mails each week, brought to the office on horseback.
Coming to Burlington, Mr. Weinrich acted as traveling salesman for the Hawkeye Woolen Mills for a year, and then purchased a dry-goods store at Brighton, Iowa, where he remained for a year, during which time he became a member of the Masonic fraternity. Returning to Burlington, he was for six months proprietor of a grocery store on South Hill. He then again went upon the road for T. W. Barhydt, dealer in boots and shoes, for two years, after which he entered the commission business on Front Street, and was at the same time city wharfmaster, and the first agent for the Diamond Joe line of steamers, which, however, had but one boat in the service.
Mr. Weinrich was for a brief period engaged in bottling beer with A. G. Busch, and in 1876 he began the manufacture of vinegar and pickles on Front Street, beginning the business on a small scale. He was the pioneer in the pickle business in Iowa, being the first to manufacture pickles for commercial purposes. He put up two thousand bushels of pickles the first year, most of which were cucumbers which he raised himself. He also manufactured about five or six barrels of vinegar per day. In the early development of the business Mr. Weinrich went upon the road to introduce his product, while four men were employed in the factory. The venture proved successful from the beginning, and has constantly grown until it has reached mammoth proportions, being now one of the largest enterprises of the kind in the United States, the house being represented In twelve traveling salesmen, while fifty men are employed on an average in the plant at Burlington. There are branch houses at Fort Madison, Iowa, and salting houses at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and New Ulm, Minn.: and for eighteen years a factory has been in operation at Kansas City, Mo. There are ten receiving stations in Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa, with local agencies at Des Moines, St. Joseph, Omaha, and Council Bluffs, and the trade extends over Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Kansas. As the business expanded it was removed from the original location to more commodious quarters on Third Street — the building now occupied by Chittenden & Eastman's factory. In June, 1898, a second removal was made to the present location at the intersection of Central Avenue and Agency and Osborn Streets. The business was incorporated in 1881, under a ten-year's charter with F. A. Smith as president and H. Weinrich as secretary and general manager. The charter was renewed and the business re-incorporated in 1904, with the following officers: H. Weinrich, president: Carl Weinrich, secretary and treasurer: and H. R. and O. L. Weinrich and P. Richards, directors, in addition to the officers. In addition to vinegar and pickles the company puts up chow-chow, Holland onions, mustard, catsup, sauerkraut, sweet cider, Spanish olives, horseradish, pepper-sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mincemeat, apple butter, and preserves, and the quality of the product insures a ready sale for the output.
Mr. Weinrich is regarded as one of the most successful business men of Burlington, nor have his efforts been confined to one line, for in addition to the development of his extensive pickling business, he is now the president of the Northwestern Cabinet Company, which was incorporated for thirty thousand dollars; the president of the Burlington Basket Company; a stockholder in the Iowa State Savings Bank, a stockholder in the pickle manufacturing business of Steinhors-Morrine Pickle Company, of Kansas City, Mo.; the owner of valuable improved and unimproved property in Burlington: and the owner of one thousand acres of land near Kingston, Iowa, devoted to general farming purposes and the raising of hogs and cattle. In view of the fact that on landing in America he clerked for a short time in the dry-goods store of Greenbaum-Schroeder and Company, and began life in Iowa at husking corn, his present prosperity is all the more notable and praiseworthy, showing what can be accomplished through determined purpose and honorable, unceasing effort.
Mr. Weinrich was married, in Muscatine, Iowa, in 1871, to Miss Emma Obermann, who was born near that city, a daughter of Karl F. and Marie (Krehe) Obermann, her father an eminent minister of the Lutheran church, then located at Muscatine, Iowa, but now deceased. Her mother is still living, at the age of seventy-three years. For twenty years Mr. and Mrs. Weinrich have resided at 408 Iowa Street. They have six children: Carl; Herman; Oscar; Hattie, the wife of Ernest Volger, of Chicago; August; and Irma. All who are old enough have completed the grammar and high-school courses of Burlington, and attended the State University at Iowa City, August pursuing the law course there. Mrs. Weinrich has four sisters: Mrs. Gustave Goppelt, of Chesaning, Mich.; Matilda the wife of William Henniker, of Muscatine; Bertha, wife of Oscar Grossheim, of Muscatine; and Mrs. Louise M. Baetzner, of Burlington. There are four brothers and two sisters of the family now deceased, there having been eleven children in all.
Mr. Weinrich is a member of the Masonic fraternity, and of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, a director of the Commercial Exchange, a trustee of the Library Board, and a member of the Crystal Lake Club. In politics he is a Republican, and always advocates movements that tend to benefit the city and promote its substantial improvement. He is modest and unassuming, and indisposed to attract attention either to his success in business or to his deeds of charity.